Getting the story straight: Kierkegaard, Macintyre and some problems with narrative

Inquiry 50 (1):34 – 69 (2007)
As part of the widespread turn to narrative in contemporary philosophy, several commentators have recently attempted to sign Kierkegaard up for the narrative cause, most notably in John Davenport and Anthony Rudd's recent collection Kierkegaard After MacIntyre: Essays on Freedom, Narrative and Virtue. I argue that the aesthetic and ethical existence-spheres in Either/Or cannot adequately be distinguished in terms of the MacIntyre-inspired notion of 'narrative unity'. Judge William's argument for the ethical life contains far more in the way of substantive normative content than can be encapsulated by the idea of 'narrative unity', and the related idea that narratives confer intelligibility will not enable us to distinguish Kierkegaardian aesthetes from Kierkegaardian ethicists. 'MacIntyrean Kierkegaardians' also take insufficient notice of further problems with MacIntyre's talk of 'narrative unity', such as his failure to distinguish between literary narratives and the 'enacted dramatic narratives' of which he claims our lives consist; the lack of clarity in the idea of a 'whole life'; and the threat of self-deception. Finally, against the connections that have been drawn between Kierkegaardian choice and Harry Frankfurt's work on volitional identification, I show something of the dangers involved in putting too much stress on unity and wholeheartedness.
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References found in this work BETA
R. G. Collingwood (1958). The Principles of Art. New York, Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA
Tony Fisher (2010). Heidegger and the Narrativity Debate. Continental Philosophy Review 43 (2):241-265.
Patrick Stokes (2012). Is Narrative Identity Four-Dimensionalist? European Journal of Philosophy 20 (S1):e86-e106.
Patrick Stokes (2008). Locke, Kierkegaard and the Phenomenology of Personal Identity. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 16 (5):645 – 672.
Anthony Rudd (2009). In Defence of Narrative. European Journal of Philosophy 17 (1):60-75.

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